Top 10 Must-See Waterfalls in the North Carolina Mountains
Picture a summer’s day hike in the North Carolina Mountains where the temps are excellent, and there’s a cool breeze in the air. As your trek continues, you peek around the corner of a hidden cove to discover a breathtaking waterfall. As you approach this beautiful cascade, you are first greeted with the relaxing sounds of falling water, then the cool mist, dancing off of the rocks to refresh you after your hike.
In Jackson County, North Carolina (located an hour west of Asheville), some of the nation’s favorite waterfalls and most beautiful waterfalls abound and are open year-round. The Blue Ridge mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva, are home to some of the most picturesque waterfalls in the country, all with their own story and beauty to discover. From one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi to gentle cascades with sandy swimming holes perfect for the family, here, you will experience the ‘Top 10 must-see waterfalls in the NC Mountains.’
Short Waterfall Hikes
Silver Run Falls – Easiest to get to
Sometimes the best waterfalls are the easiest to get to! Tucked away in a hidden cove right off N.C. Highway 107, Silver Run Falls, is only a short walk from the parking area. Although it may not be the largest waterfall in the NC Mountains, its short walk and prime swimming spot underneath the falls makes it perfect for families. Visitors are greeted with crystal clear waters along with a silver shimmer from the mica-rich sand that shines through.
Insider Tip: Beat the heat and the crowds! Get there early in the morning (especially on a weekday) and enjoy this hidden treasure all to yourself!
Soco Falls – One of the Few Double Waterfalls You’ll Find
Located between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, Soco Falls is an ideal trip for a wonderful waterfall adventure. This 120-foot cascade is one of the few double waterfalls you will find in Western North Carolina. The two falls converge into one, creating the perfect scene as the sun rises, exposing the foliage behind it. If you plan to go to the base of the falls, make sure to wear sturdy boots to get through the sometimes muddy trail safely. The Falls is also accessible off of the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 455.7 – Soco Gap)
Whitewater Falls – Most Awe-Inspiring
At 411 feet, the upper Whitewater Falls is one of the tallest cascading waterfalls east of the Rockies (with the upper falls and lower falls combining for a total of 811-feet). Tumbling into the Cullasaja River, it is also the most accessible. With a short (half-mile roundtrip) paved path to the overlook and views of neighboring South Carolina along the way, you’ll enjoy the falls, as well as the convenient amenities including covered picnic benches, restrooms, ample car and bus parking, and a large grassy field for the kids to play in! Make sure to bring along $3 for parking, as this is a Nantahala National Forest site with a small parking fee.
Dry Falls – Best Viewed in Autumn
Affectionately named after the path that allows you to go underneath the cascade, keeping you “dry” (although “damp falls” may be a better name), Dry Falls is a must-visit! Requiring a short hike, the falls is located off of Highway 64; it is one of many that run between Sapphire and Franklin, North Carolina.
Insider Tip: The earlier you go, the better especially on weekdays when crowds thin out. The parking lot provides convenient amenities but is relatively small. Try to head out earlier in the day so that you won’t have to wait. There is a $3 use fee for this site. Be sure to pack a raincoat if you plan to go under the falls.
Cashiers Sliding Rock – Family Favorite
This tiny and fun waterfall is located along Whiteside Cove Road in Cashiers, NC. During the warmer months, this kid-friendly attraction is accessed by families looking to cool off in the natural swimming hole beneath. This waterfall is perfect for the family and is an excellent place to create new memories in the summer!
More Adventurous Waterfall Hikes
High Falls – Glenville Must-See
Also known as Cullowhee Falls, High Falls is located in Glenville, North Carolina, between Cullowhee and Cashiers. This massive 100-foot-tall double-layered cascade can be accessed from the trailhead across the street from the Pines Recreation Area at Lake Glenville, and requires less than a mile trail hike to access. It’s a favorite among extreme kayakers as the Glenville Dam Releases Class IV rapids along the Tuckasegee River’s West Fork during the warmer months.
Mingo Falls – Great Photo Op
Located in Cherokee, NC, near the terminus for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mingo Falls is a 150-foot cascade with a multitude of waterfalls pouring from smaller ledges. It is a bit of a trek due to the 164 stairs leading up to the falls, but, as you can see, the walk is worth it!
‘Yosemite of the East’ Waterfalls
The following waterfalls are just four out of more than a dozen waterfalls that can be found in Panthertown Valley, known as the ‘Yosemite of the East’. Located near Cashiers, NC, the valley offers more than 30-miles of multi-purpose trails and over 6,295 acres of untouched natural beauty. It’s for this reason that we encourage EVERY VISITOR to request a map of Panthertown online or to purchase one at Highland Hiker in Cashiers, NC.
Greenland Creek Falls: Secluded and Private
Enjoy Greenland Creek Falls all to yourself, as this 45-foot cascade is one of the more undiscovered falls. Located along Mac’s Gap & Greenland Creek Trail, this remote waterfall offers a great place to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a meditation by the water for a relaxing afternoon.
Granny Burrell Falls: Hidden Gem
This is undoubtedly the smallest waterfall on the list but makes it for a good reason. Its off the beaten path location in the heart of Panthertown offers a great spot to spread out and relax along the sandy beach area next to the falls. Anglers will also find the spot appealing, as it is a great place to cast a line for the native brook trout that call Panthertown home.
Frolictown Falls: Fun to Find
Standing at 15-feet high, Frolictown Falls is a favorite stop along Panthertown’s Great Wall Trail. It’s a nice relaxing mix up from grandiose cascades, as the water gently tumbles from Frolictown Creek. Don’t be alarmed by the water’s color; the color comes from the tannic acid-rich soil that makes up the creek bed.
More Waterfalls West of Asheville
Looking Glass Falls – Regional Favorite
Nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, this waterfall is easiest to access off of the Blue Ridge Parkway along N.C. 276 in neighboring Transylvania County. The large parking lot, coupled with the convenient short walk to the wheelchair-accessible viewing platform, make it a favorite for everyone to enjoy.
Pro tip: The best time to avoid the crowds is by visiting on a weekday or in the winter – early spring!
Bridal Veil Falls – Roadside Attraction
This historic beauty, fed by the Cullasaja River’s tributary, transforms into a wall of icicles in the winter, veiling a portion of U.S. 64—hence the name. Located near Cashiers and Highlands, Bridal Veil Falls is conveniently located right by the road – no parking fee or walking required! The parking area is located directly next to the falls, and it’s also visible along the roadside. Get out and stretch your legs and walk beneath this iconic waterfall.
Moore Cove Falls – Loop Behind
Moore Cove Falls is located in neighboring Transylvania County, just a few miles outside of Brevard on US 276. The waterfall gives you the unique opportunity to walk the loop trail that goes behind the falls, and enjoy the mist off of the falls on a warm summer’s day.
Know Before You Go
Waterfalls in the WNC Mountains are as beautiful as they are potentially dangerous. Never climb, stand on or look over a waterfall; they can be deadly. Take no chances only photos for memories. Please make sure to check out our Waterfall & Hiking Guide, along with our Waterfall Safety Guide to keep you safe during your visit!
Chasing waterfalls in the NC Mountains offers the perfect opportunity for a much-deserved vacation. While these 10 are a great place to start, Jackson County is full of adventures for you and your loved ones to enjoy! More than just waterfalls, Jackson County is home to a thriving culinary and shopping scene as well. From Cozy Cabins, Boutique Hotels, Airbnb’s, and more, you’ll find lodging that fits your lifestyle and budget. Plan your trip by checking out our FREE Visitor Guide for an all-inclusive guide to your Jackson County adventure.